So, we took a shared taxi from Ruoqiang towards Magnai, through a 3.800 meters mountain pass in the Altun Mountains, flanked by 5.000 m peaks. I expected to find landscapes like in the Andes Cordillera, like these:
What I found was an uninteresting road built on a dull countryside.
I took the photo from a taxi in motion, and this picture is the best I got.Probably if we have had the taxi only for ourselves it would have been quite more interesting, because I saw flashes of snow covered peaks, valleys with springs, the old road may have made an interesting detour. But of course if the taxi is shared with 7 other people you simply cannot ask the driver to stop while you search for the correct angle to take the picture.
This brings me to a conclusion that is, at the same time, a recommendation:
The trip from Hetian onwards should be done by private taxi (they are not expensive, probably 800 to 900 RMB – 100 euros per day, all included). There is no need to rent a taxi for the full trip (although of course it is a better solution, it may be quite more expensive). You find long distance taxis at the bus station, and you can negotiate price with them. With a private taxi you may ask the driver to stop, you will know small villages, and local food. Buses, of course, are cheaper and more “genuine”, but in a bus you see almost nothing, dirty windows, you may eventually get an aisle and not a window seat… Buses transport you from point A to point B, of course, but you would surely be interested in what is in between A and B.
So, we went, in a taxi packed up, in a rather good and fast mountain road, with a driver who was in a hurry, and who ignored the use of the gearbox to slow down the car in descents… a kind of Fast and Furious ride.
We stopped in the middle of nowhere to swap taxis. There are shared taxis that go from point A to point B, and taxis that go from point B to point A. So, they meet at somewhere between A and B, they swap passengers, and they return to their home base, having both done half the distance. Clever, is’nt it?. Problem is, of course, if you departed for B on a van for 8 passengers plus the driver, and the 8 passengers must fit in a compact car. But of course this is not a problem in China.
But everything went well, thanks to the mighty woman who took us under her protection at Ruoqiang and rented the taxi. Again we were stopped at a Road Police Post, and again the Policeman told us to seat and wait. But then he make an error, he told the taxi driver that the taxi may continue… the woman become very angry with the guy, she should have been trained to never let a comrade down, as Marines do. She told me later that the Policeman told her that we should wait for his boss, and stay there until he arrives, but the taxi and the other people may leave. And she scream at him, saying that we had the authorisation from Ruoqiang Police to enter the Qinghai, and, as she had gone to the Police Station with us, she will stay with us to explain to the Police Chief that he should not waste our time.
So, there we went, until we arrived to Huatougo, a small village, 50 km away from Magnai Zhen mines.
And the hotel the superwoman reserved for us was allowed to take aliens as well as overseas citizens, and this was a good sign.
The sign that our problems of being a foreigner lay behind us.